Blog Chain: Finding the Write Time

Tere is starting the chain this time. Her question is:

What conditions do you need to get your best writing done? Closed door, crowded coffee house? Computer or notebook? Can you just sit down to write, or do you need to wait for the time to be right?

I think the one person who can answer this question best is my boss. Well, Boss. When DO I get writing time in? Can I just sit down and write, or do I wait for the right time?

Translation: because mommy's job involves writing stuff for people, like articles and product descriptions and web page content, mommy is ALWAYS writing. She's typing away on her laptop all day, although she does take time to play with me and feed me and be silly with me. Mommy hasn't gotten much creative time in lately, because of her other writing work. But when I get older, since I'm only 10-months-old right now, and can do more things on my own, mommy will get more time to be creative. She's real patient.

Visit Katrina for her answer. And stop by Eric's place for his.

Blog Chain: Big Accomplishments

Hello, everyone! Today, I have the pleasure of choosing the topic for this current blog chain round. I also know this is NanoWrimo month for many people. So I wanted to post a topic that is related.

This is the month in creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?

At the moment, I want to say my biggest accomplishment has been to not pull my hair out with how hectic life has been. Raising a nine-month-old on my own and making ends meet has been my main focus. But the fact that I have a job related to writing that keeps my creative juices flowing has to be another great accomplishment.

Yesterday, I visited a client's site. They are hosting a contest to raise money for cancer research. There, I saw my press release I created for them, talking about cancer and how it can effect so many people.

The sense of pride I felt to see my writing work online feels like a major accomplishment to me, especially since most of my own fiction writing has been put on hold. I plan on getting back to it soon, when my daughter is a little bit older and I have a bit more free time (I hope!)

So, what are you big accomplishments? What makes you straighten up with pride in who you are and what you are doing in your life?

Visit Eric for his post.

Blog Chain: The Things That Go BUMP in the Night!

It's Blog Chain time again. New member Matt has come up with a fun question for us.

What is your all-time favorite monster? You can take this in any direction you'd like. For example: my most bad-ass monster would easily be a dragon, and it is my favorite in some ways, but you don't have to go with that kind of measurement. Like me, you could go with the most ridiculously hilarious monster you ever heard of, or, like Stephanie Meyer, you could go with the most romantic creature to ever grace the pages of mythology. Or like Carrie Ryan, you could choose the old standby: Zombies. One alone might not be much to handle, but the horde is probably the single most powerful monster force ever invented in gaming, film, literature, or legend. It's up to you: what's your favorite monster?

I've been debating about this for quite some time. It's not that I don't have a favorite monster. It was whether I wanted to go literal and choose a monster that was *sort of* flesh and bone. Or whether I wanted to be more metaphorical and choose a creature that existed only in the dark deep pits of the human soul and mind where we fear to tread.

Decisions... decisions....

There have been monsters that scared me as a kid. And there have been monsters that I truly loved due to their lovable nature. And there have been ones that I absolutely loathed. Like the one below. Truly, I loath him. If I ever see one dancing on the store shelf, I might just go Jason with the hockey mask and machete on his little red a**!

It is interesting how many people on the blog chain haven't chosen monsters from literature. There are some dozzies out there -- the original monsters. I don't mean so much of the vampires or witches. But the other creatures that get downplayed, like the giants, ogres or goblins that can rank pretty high on the monster list.

Oh well. If I must choose a monster, I will choose one due to his spunk. This guy is one mean dude. He could beat out against any dragon, muppet or Twilight character in a caged death match. Seriously, he is the monster of all monsters. Although he can speak English, he sticks with his main language of "rathsmagrably-spithzz." You could hear him coming miles away as he approached as a whirlwind of ferocious claws and teeth. He is a spitting, eating machine.

Katrina posted her favorite monster here. Eric will posts his tomorrow.

Blog Chain: Let's Hear It For The Crits!

Sarah has the blog chain control for this round. She asks:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?

I do work with crit partners, although I would like to work with more people. I do believe the more eyes on your work, the better novel you can create. Each individual person will have their own unique take on a story. And this is the greatest advantage of being a writer. Writing a story to touch people in different ways, bringing out individual (and hopefully positive) emotions concerning your story.

Having different people give their own opinions, and taking those opinions to craft a tight story, guarantees success in getting published. I believe this, even if it might take a bit of time to find that "dream" agent and that excited publisher.

I had written a total of three books, received numerous rejections for one, before I started to learn more about the publishing industry and the need to have a crit partner. I found a crit partner for my first novel, Stephen Parrish. He gave me awesome advice for my mystery novel. He is a tough crit partner, but when he finds something that he likes about the novel, he won't hesitate to tell you. I received great advice for the novel. I found him when he sent me an email, saying how he enjoyed reading my comments over at Nathan Bransford  site.  I asked if he could read my story, and he gave me great comments.

Another crit partner is our blog chain buddy Eric Stahlsworth. I met Eric on my blog, through a comment he left. I'm not positive how he found me but I'm thankful he did. Eric was the person to invite me into the blog chain. And he loves Poe and Stephen King. What better person to have crit my works?

Eric gave me a wonderful response, balancing what he liked about the story with what needed improvement.   I was so grateful he pointed out my weaknesses (I'm shaky at writing those stellar beginnings that are suppose to draw a reader into the story).

Surprisingly, I have yet to reciprocate. And I believe that is the most important part about being a crit partner. To offer honest and constructive criticism to another person's novel. I'm willing and able. I'm just waiting for that novel to drop into my lap.

So GET WITH IT, ERIC! Finish that first book.

no pressure

Visit Katrina's post before mine and Eric's posts tomorrow.

Blog Post: Dragging Novels

Blog chain time today. Shaun has this round's question for us.

What are three books you would tell people that they need to keep reading even if they aren't immediately sucked in by the first page?

It depends. As the saying goes, what is one person's cup of tea is another person's cup of poison. We all have reasons why we don't get through a story, and it might not have to do with the story itself. Life and time constraints can put a damper on a person's reading schedule.

Yet, in that same breath, there are stories that might throw off a person because of the lack of action. Or even worse, too much action. Ever read a story that has so much plot going on in the beginning that it leaves you totally confused on what's going on by the next pages? And trying to decipher all the action just seems like too much work for you to do?

There's also some stories that throw off readers due to a weak main character. No personality whatsoever during that first paragraph. Time to give up. Or should we?

I can think of stories with too much fluffy writing in the beginning, which I will mention in my book list. Another story I will mention might have people dragging their feet due to the character's dialect. Some people enjoying reading these stories. Other people have a hard time connecting with the character because they are speaking totally different than what the reader's comfort zone allows.

The way I see it; a person should never give up on that story at the beginning. It might taste like it's poison, but that plot could be the sweetest tasting tea you've ever tried. Or wine. Or beer. Or cup of cocoa if tea is not your thing.

Here is my list:

J.R.R. Tolkien,  The Lord of the Ring Series: The world-building can get a bit too involved. Some people have claimed it "fluffy." The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales are two more works by Tolkien that you have to really set your teeth at and gnaw on for a bit to get to the juicy tidbits. What I believe makes it slow is there is so much DESCRIPTIVE paragraphs. A scene that might take you a few words to describe can go on for paragraphs. There are times when the plot just stops. But this shouldn't make you stop reading.

Kathryn Magendie,  Tender Graces: I loved the book, but I'm sure the first paragraph may throw people off because of the character's southern dialect. I find the main character's flow of words spunky and unique. It's about a woman who must face her demons of the past after her mother passes away.

Stephen King,  Eye of The Dragon: My Gawd! That first paragraph is a whopper. In fact, the first paragraph takes up most of the first page to tell you the King was a good king who tried very hard to be a good king but didn't always succeed at being a good king. No, I'm not kingging.... er, I mean kidding.

This is my list. Sorry I didn't give you more background information regarding what the novels are about. But I don't want to raise your hopes up with the parts that I LIKED about the story that kept me reading. Much better for you to find those inkling little bits that spurs you to finish reading the story. Everyone's motivation is different.

Katrina's book list post before mine.
Eric's book list post tomorrow

Blog Chain: Writing Prompt

The blog chain has swung around again. Christine is this round's question master, and she posted a fun writing prompt for us.

Since we are all writer's, I thought it was about time for us to stretch our creative muscles and do a little writing. So, take the following topic and go crazy! Show us what you've got. Your story can be as long or as short as you choice. 

The topic: A dark and stormy night.

Here's my story. It came right off the top of my head yesterday and this morning as I was in the shower. I hope you enjoy it.
The dandelion sat alone in the grass, spotlighted in the silvery pool of light from the shining street lamp hovering above. I watched as a drop of water slid along one petal, a single tear cried from the passing storm clouds above. Grass was moist under my one cheek. At least, I suspected it was.

The numbness invaded every inch of my body. This happened. More than once. I had a medical condition. I forgot what it was called, some long medical word formed from a dead language that's supposed to be indecipherable to all patients so they feel inferior to the doctors who treated them. Nobody likes to have competition to their profession. Nobody likes to have the patient know more than the doctor.

I felt it happening on my way from Rachel's house. We had a few drinks. We had a few laughs. I tried to sneak a kiss in and she pushed me away. "Time to leave, Mike. My boyfriend will be back by midnight."

I wish I could roll onto my back. It's not to stare around the place. I knew where I laid. It was a shortcut in a patch of field behind the apartment building. I always came this way, hurrying toward my car parked in the alley a street away. No way I wanted Rachel's newest boy-toy to catch me with her. He was a bouncer at the local club. I didn't want his fists bouncing off the side of my head. As I had reached the field, the numbness happened all at once. It started from my toes and ran all the way up to my hair. I flopped to the ground like someone had shot me in the back.

I would have been happy to lay there, musing on my own thoughts until the numbness went away. It usually took several hours. Laying there on my own, on the grass, watching the rain cry itself out on me and my dandelion. But...

Oh god...

I never told Rachel about my condition. I could hear her nearby. Sobbing as the wail of sirens sounded again a few feet away. Several black shoes walked by again, small moons showing on the leather as they reflected the street lights. If I had to make a guess, those shoes belonged to the detectives examining me. They talked with a professional manner. A bit hurried for my liking. They clamied this was the second dead body they had to deal with tonight.

But. I. Am. Not. DEAD.

I screamed and thrashed on the grass. At least this image ran into my mind repeatedly as a white pant leg bent near my head. The paramedic took an official reading. All his medical doodads telling him something not true.

Please. Oh god. Please don't put the sheet over me again.

My world turned silvery white as the paramedic covered up my body from head to foot. My only company was the dandelion, sharing this white-shrouded tomb illuminated by the street lamp. Another drop of water ran along the dandelion petal.

Cry for me, little dandelion. They will be taking me to the morgue. And this time, I don't think the numbness will fade before the coroner cuts me open to find out what had supposedly killed me.

Well, that's my story. Read what Katrina posted yesterday and make sure to stop by Eric's place tomorrow for his story.

Blog Chain: Changes in Publishing

 The blog chain is back after a summer hiatus. And we have new members. Of course I'm late with a post. Sorry chain gang!

Sandra has this round's question. Visit new blog chain member Katrina who made a post before me. And the ever lovable Eric posted after.

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

Recent changes? Hmm... do you mean the sudden push toward self-publishing? That the author themselves are taking more responsibilities with their books, such as coming up with the book/page format, cover art and all those other things on the road to a self-published book ready to market?

Or do you mean the changing of the industry itself. The news that some agents aren't sticking with the traditional route and have considered digital formatting as the new wave of publishing?

Are we talking about the close of brick-and-mortar stores? Borders caused a serious ripple in the industry. More than most of us realize.

I can honestly say the current news for the first two topics hasn't had a major impact on me. I've been so caught up with work and raising my daughter that the publishing world skims over my consciousness while my mind stores the interesting tidbits to digest later... much later. After a chat with Facebook friend, Tracy Hickman (no relation) who is a best-selling fantasy/SF author (Dragonlance), he said something that will stick with me concerning all and any changes that may happen.

"Don't seek to be published. Seek to be read."

So that is my general feeling concerning the changes. I'll still write. I'll still seek to be published. I'll still seek to learn and improve and do well in my endeavors so long as I never give up on my writing dream. I'll learn to adapt to whatever happens in the industry.


I can tell you that the closing of Borders has had a big impact in my area. I know of ONE bookstore in the immediate vicinity -- a little independent place across from my bank. Not having brick-and-mortar stores can impact the writer in ways we fear to imagine. It means less readers who may glance over and spot the interesting cover on the shelf. A cover that may have a positive effect for them to walk over, pick up that book, and read it. Purchase it. We need brick-and-mortar stores. We need them if, for nothing else, to get our fat lazy butts outside to get some exercise walking along the aisles!!!

Sorry this post is so scattered. Lots of article writing on my mind, Jaq is ready for my nap, just got a new tv and ordered cable, and a million other things going on that would make a even more horrendous run-on sentence than the one you just read.

Anyway, those are my thoughts about the state of affairs with the publishing industry. Check out the other posts from my fellow blog chain gang.
Recently, I entered a flash fiction contest. Although I didn't win, I did make the top 40 league, which means I scored at least 40 points out of 45. I decided to share the story here for everyone to read. Enjoy!

The gist of the contest was to look at the picture and write the story based on it.

Parting Ways
by Michelle Hickman

Swirly red. Around me. Tasted so sweet. I drank it in. It left a burning heat in my belly and a grogginess to thoughts. I wanted to stay forever.

“Why do you want to stay, Patrick?” There’s so much more for you. Look.” A hand pointed at the yellow opening. “Why don’t you come in?”

“NO,” I snarled. I wrapped the mist tight about like a security blanket. I knew what was beyond that yellow opening. I heard the screams, the shattering of glass, and the ambulance sirens.

“You’re dying here, Patrick. Look at yourself.” The disembodied voice insisted. I glanced down. I was wasp-thin. My body shook in uncontrollable fits.

The voice was right. I was dying, drinking away my sorrows with my life left empty after the car accident.

I had eight shots of rum. Anna said I shouldn’t drive, but I snapped at her to get inside the car with the kids. I drove us right into a tree. I was the only one who had left that car without being wrapped in a black bag.

I sobbed. My tears parted the red mist. Intangible. Unfeeling.

“It’s all right,” the disembodied voice soothed. The hand reappeared. It led me to the opening, but I must take the last step. I hesitated before grabbing the yellow light.

Hands clapped as I opened my eyes. Twenty people sat in a circle with faces bright in the sunlight. The AA counselor’s hand gripped mine. He said, “You’re free now.”

So... Who likes to read baseball books?

And what if those baseball books had a bit of mystery in them that involved the World Series? Well, author Allen Schatz has written just that kind of fiction novel. Game 7: Dead Ball will be out in print on July 1st. If you love baseball and thrillers, you'll be interested in this novel.

COMING JULY 1, 2011…

Game 7: Dead Ball – in PRINT!

Indie Writer Allen Schatz is pleased to announce the launch of the print version of his debut novel!

The eBook version has been rated 4 & 5-stars at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and more…

“Allen Schatz, in his first novel, has proven a welcome newcomer to an overcrowded thriller market sadly diluted with average ho-hum fare… I would highly recommend this book to any thriller fan who is tired of the same old mediocre drivel that is plaguing our bookshelves… Schatz has proven he belongs in the writing game…”

“You might expect a mystery involving a baseball umpire in the World Series to center on fixing games. Schatz happily has chosen to go in a less obvious direction… Game 7 has a huge cast of characters - it is to Schatz's credit as a writer that they're reasonably easy to keep straight… If you like baseball and thrillers, Game 7: Dead Ball is a must read…”

“Simply put, it's a fun, entertaining book that I would recommend for anyone's summer reading list.”

Order your copy of the book beginning July 1 at:

Additional sales outlets, including, will follow in the coming weeks.

For all the latest news visit – you can also follow Allen on Facebook at or on Twitter (@raschatz).

UPDATE: Allen Schatz just let me know that the novel came out a week early and he is offering a special discount to everyone. Go to the CreateSpace link and type in the following coupon code: SG4Z85JL - for 10% off the price!

Blog Chain: Go on... break a rule like you would a mirror.

I am soooo late with this blog chain posting. So let's get right into it. Abby posted this question.

There are SO many writing rules, but sometimes we have to break one or two, just to keep things interesting. Is there a writing rule you've broken on purpose? Why did you choose to break it? And if you want to post a snippet of your writing as an example, even better!

Sandra posted before me, and because I'm late with this post Michelle M. has her post up already. Read both for there wonderful answers.

As for my answer, it took awhile to consider which writing rule I've broken. Sentence fragments is a big thing. I've also done dream sequences at the beginning of chapters. But I can think of one rule that is universal to all literary agents, editors, and publishers which is the biggest no-no for a writer to break.


Yes, I've placed the dreaded "character looking at herself in a mirror and describing her appearance" anti-rule into one of my novels. Why did I break the rule? No reason except that I could. This scene will play an intricate role in the plot later on. It was just a device I used to introduce the piece early on. Here is the excerpt in all it's horrified glory.



Jena’s tired eyes blinked open. The howl sounded through the wall on the other side of her as the image of the jail cell faded. The dark shape against the wall took on a more familiar one. Her long bedroom dresser. Upside down. She wondered about this as her back slid another inch across the covers, her hair now touching the carpeted floor. She grabbed the metal frame and pushed upward in a scrambling heave as Jena rolled up on the covers and glanced at the window. The sun had already faded. Yet the night still held back its full darkness while allowing those people to see their way home on this early Friday evening. A large mosquito danced across the mesh screen as the bug searched for escape from the world outside.

“It should stay out there and hide in the darkness rather than come inside. It should enjoy the freedom.” Jena sighed with envy. Below, her empty stomach whined for dinner. She shifted from the bed and walked toward the window, tapping against the screen to scare the mosquito away. She stared at her beat-up red Nova parked in the driveway before following the dark asphalt stretching from the cul-de-sac. The road did look so inviting, as it begged her to explore its far reaches. Yet she knew the sight was fake. She had no freedom, not anymore. She had squandered it away years ago.

She closed the window and then squatted near the heat vent on the floor. Soft sounds vibrated up through the ducts. Yet the phone was not in use. Not like when she had arrived here this afternoon, late, as Clare had scowled and Jena had made light of the situation by saying her transfer papers had gotten lost in the mail and vacationed in Aruba where the vice squad had to pick her up. When Jena had entered her old bedroom to unpack, the telephone’s red flashing button had told her that Clare had called someone. Jena had known after two echoed sentences that her brother Ted talked on the other end of the line. He was their grandmother’s golden child.

“Yes, Jena got here with her poor attitude. Finally! I swear, Teddy, why did she even bother? Everybody knows she won’t make anything worthwhile out of her life. I just don’t see the point of trying with her. It would be such a waste.”

Jena straightened and unlocked the bedroom door. Her first stop was at the bathroom while she smacked lips at the funky aftertaste from the diet Pepsi she had drank during her drive there. From her hygiene bag she pulled out her toothbrush and scrubbed her pearly whites clean. Then she reached toward the medicine cabinet.


The mirror door stayed in place no matter how hard she pulled. She glanced around the shallow cabinet and noticed a bit of silver over the connecting metal clasps. A lock. Jena spied the dark orange bottles through the crack along the edge. It appeared every medication in the house lurked inside.

Oh, Grandmother Clare, why can’t you trust me?

Jena placed the toothbrush in her bag while her appearance stared back in the mirror: brown hair slicked on one side and sticking out, twitching cheek muscles, and dark circles under both red eyes. She looked better now. If it were two years ago, she would not have recognized herself. A stranger would have stared back.

The mirror image opened lips. “Clare should know better than to store those bottles in here. Doctors warn about the humidity ruining the pills’ effectiveness. Make sure to remind her about that.” Jena’s mirror image smiled and she felt herself smiling back. By the time she entered the hallway, her smile had faded as a frown took its place.

“Go. Must protect family. Not bad. Never bad.”

Blog Tour featuring Author Mark Terry

I've been hosting quite a few book tours lately, and it's been fun and an extreme pleasure to do so. This time, I have the honor of hosting Mark Terry, author of; THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS.

My blog is all yours. Take it away, Mark.

Mark Terry is the award-winning author of 13 books including the thriller series featuring Homeland Security troubleshooter Dr. Derek Stillwater. The fourth book in the series, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, comes out June 7, 2011 in hardcover and as an e-book from Oceanview Publishing. Of Mark Terry’s writing, The Lansing State Journal said, “Terry writes like Lee Child on steroids.”

When not writing – he makes his living as a freelance writer, editor, author and ghostwriter – Mark lifts weights, bikes, runs, and teaches Sanchin-Ryu karate, in which he holds a black belt. He also plays guitar from time to time. Visit his website at Mark’s guest blog today is a little silly, a little insightful, and maybe a little fun.

A Dirty Dozen Questions
By Mark Terry  

You ever see the show Inside The Actor’s Studio hosted by James Lipton? He always ends his interviews with the same questions, things like: “What turns you on?” and “What sound do you like?” and “When you die and St. Peter meets you at the Pearly Gates, what do you think he’ll say?”

I’m game. I’m going to make up my own questions and answer them here.

What puts a smile on your face?

A good joke, a smartass comment from a friend or family member, a long bike ride on a sunny day, a frozen strawberry Margarita, chips and salsa, a well-executed karate kata, and a check with more than three figures to the left of the decimal point.

What’s your favorite musical instrument to play?

When I was younger it was saxophone, a little older it was piano, these days it’s guitar.

What sparks your creativity?

The crass answer is: bills to pay. The rational answer is: everything on earth. I’m rational and logical – it’s my science background – but if I don’t do something creative on a regular basis, write fiction, play guitar, etc., I start getting wacky and drive the people around me nuts.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do that you haven’t done yet?

Yes, tons, most involving travel. I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve never been to Hawaii. I’ve never been to Alaska, Africa, Asia, tropical islands, or a lot of places. 

What do you fear the most?


Are you afraid of failure?

No. I’m not. We all fail. All the time. The most successful people in the world fail over and over again. But they learn from their failures and move on. You only really fail if you let it paralyze you. Fail your way to success is practically my mantra.

What’s your favorite food?


So you want your last meal to be pizza?

Wouldn’t hurt, but who I eat it with would be more important. Should be my wife Leanne and my kids, Ian and Sean, probably some of my friends. Our friends and my wife and I usually go out for Mexican. And strawberry Margaritas put a smile on my face.

What’s the most frustrating thing in your life?

The traditional publishing industry. Not writing, not nonfiction publishing, which I’m quite successful at, but the traditional publishing market for fiction. Crazy, crazy, unpredictable, illogical, irrational, annoying, impractical business.

Have you considered “indie publishing?”

Yes. I’ve done it. I did it before I was traditionally published, and now I’m doing both. I’m flexible and adaptable. The publishing industry is changing. I’m changing with it.

Why are manhole covers round?

Because manholes are round.

Okay, so, if you die and are met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter, what do you think he’ll say?

“C’mon in. There’s a really great Mexican place down the street with the best strawberry Margaritas in the universe.”
Thanks, Mark, for your guest post. Make sure to visit Author Mark Terry's site, for the latest news about his novels, and purchase, "The Valley of Shadows," when it hits stores on June 7.

Blog Chain: Be Positive

Hello, hello! Today is blog chain time and it seems I'm to start this round with the question. I also received the "Versatile blog" award yesterday from Michelle Barrow-Belisle. Receiving the award gave me the idea for this blog question, so I'm combining the award rules into this post today.

The question: Be positive! Name some of the positive aspects of your writing --- be it a compliment from a mentor, friend or crit partner to anything special you learned concerning your writing skills.

Since I'm suppose to follow the blog award rules and name seven things about myself, I'll name seven positive aspects concerning my writing. The other blog chainers don't have to do this if they wish.

Positive aspects list:

1: I've always had a natural talent for anything writing-related. Yep, I'm one of those people where, while young, my parents would ask me how to spell certain words instead of looking them up in the dictionary. I also was suppose to write a play for my fellow classmates in fourth grade. I was grateful to be asked to do the task although it never panned out.

2: I was ahead in reading skills in the third grade. The teacher sat me in the hallway to read over advanced English workbooks, because I was so far ahead that the rest of the class had to catch up. For some strange reason, I had mixed feelings about this. When young, you are usually separated from the group by the teacher because you did something BAD. Not something good.

3: At a time where I received little recognition for my writing skills from home, I got plenty of it from my teachers in school. Three different English teachers in high school encouraged my writing skills, asking if I wrote poetry, suggesting that I should enroll in creative writing classes.

4: As with some people in life, they may have parents who don't believe writing can be considered a career (hello? Stephen King? Every journalist on this world?). Instead, I was encouraged to seek a computer programming career. For several years the word "writing" never entered my mind. The writing bug struck when I was 25 and a dream stick with me that just wouldn't leave. To get it out of my head, I began writing it down. I haven't stopped since.

5: I wrote my story, destined to be a series, and had an agent. The less said about him, the better. We parted ways and I began my research (which I should have down beforehand) about how the publishing agency really works. I now know more than I did before, although there's still so much more information out there.

6: I have a talent at dialect. Don't know why, but I can write with a country feel in stories. Couldn't possible be because I grew up hick ;)

7: I received such awesome compliments from crit partner Eric concerning my book, "The Stone Man." And not just from him, by so many people who have had the opportunity to read some of my stories. Such words of encouragement can only increase my motivation to never stop tapping on the keyboard.

Okay, I fulfilled the award contest rules. If any of my fellow blog chainers wants to follow the award rules and name seven positive things about their writing, then consider yourself picked for the "Versatile Blog" award.

Visit Eric's place tomorrow for his take on the question. I hope everyone has a great week of writing!

Blog Chain: What's the Odds?

It's blog chain time again! If you're new here, this is the time when a group of fellow authors and aspiring writers will get together and ask writing questions to each other. Each of us takes a round to ask a question, and this time it's Laura who has the question for us.

What keeps you going (either trying to get an agent or to get published or finish that WIP that's kicking your butt) when you know the odds are stacked way against you?

The odds are stacked against me? Really? You mean that, even if I write a good book, a book that is publishable, a book where everyone (i.e. those friends who wouldn't hurt my feelings and rave about every piece of writing I do) said will propel me into the legendary realms of becoming a big time author like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, I still might not get published?

The odds are stacked against me? Way against me?

I don't believe you. I don't HAVE to believe this. I believe I wrote a great story. I believe someone would like to read that story. I believe that I will one day become published. Sure, I might not get onto Oprah's book club listing, but I'll see my novel in the stores. I'll download it on an e-reader. I'll even sign books to those fans who may write or email me.

Denial can be a powerful tool. So can hope. Whichever I wish to choose, I'll still tap my fingers against the keyboard and keep cranking out stories.

Kate's post is before mine. Eric's post will appear tomorrow. I'll be back on Wednesday as I start this next coming blog chain round.

Author Christine Fonseca Blog Book Tour Contest Winner

Thank you all for coming by and leaving comments on both of my blogs concerning Christine Fonseca's wonderful advice she received as a child. Make sure you get her book: 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Children.

Now, to announce the winner of the book and $30 Amazon Gift card. I took all the names from both blogs, stuffed them in a hat, and pulled out...


Congratulations Eric! I'll be contacting you shortly with the details of your prizes. And thank you, Christine, for allowing me to play host on your wonderful blog tour.

The Park

It was a bright and sunny day. A day where you would skip school or work if you could. And for someone who has the opportunity to work at home while watching her daughter, this was a perfect day to enjoy a little sunshine.

So we went outside, about four-ish in the afternoon, to check the mail. We have mailbox slots in a small alcove of the apartment building, and a stoop outside under the green awning. Many times, we'll sit on the stoop and stare at the passing cars... vroom-vroom... as I would point at objects and the Overlord would sit on my knee. Her eyes would be as big as moon pies, following my pointing finger as I would name things.

"That's a car."
"That's grass."
"There's a tree."
"That's a welcome mat."
"There's a doggie."

Well, on that bright and sunny day, the awning was gone. Perhaps they took it down for cleaning or replacement. It's a nice awning. One of those cloth type ones. Not the plastic where the light shines through, changing a person's skin green, as if this was a brief glimpse of the aliens leaving the disguised mothership/apartment building before they infiltrated the humans as the aliens sought... whatever your imagination wishes. A peaceful coexistence with humanity? A plot for world takeover? A place to eat a good Big Mac in the entire universe? Take your pick.

We sat on that stoop, with me giving lessons and the Overlord staring at all the world with a newness in her eyes. Across the street was the hospital, red brick all around, people having to enter different entrances to find loved ones, since the building doesn't connect to every wing. It's kind of annoying, I would think. You would enter one entrance, looking for a patient's room, only to be told the room was on the west side  of the building. So you would have to go out through the same exit and walk around the block to the next, finding two different doors and playing eenie-meanie-minnie-moe on which to go through.

We stared and I would point. This was our afternoon learning routine. But on this bright and sunny day, there were kids playing in the park. Kids... children... tiny, running, laughing, playing humanoids that the Overlord has never seen before.

I ran upstairs, placed on a hat, changed out of my slippers into some sandals, and headed over to the park with the Overlord and a pacifier in my pocket. No diapers in case she soiled herself. No baby bottle. This was a spur-of-the-moment type thing. Who knew when those kids would leave, with the Overlord missing her chance at some social interaction?

Friendship Park. There are plenty of reasons to call it such. You can start instant friendships there with perfect strangers just by sitting on a bench and saying, "hi." We sat and watched. The children laughed and played. I think the oldest might have been seven. This was a time of life we all enjoy. That reckless childhood abandon. There's no need, either as parents or as children, to dwell on what the future will bring: elementary school lunches and food fights, middle school detention for chewing gum during gym class (yes, that happened to me), high school tests... and more tests... and more tests. Finals. Term papers. And let's not forget all the dreaded PSAT, SAT, and ACT tutoring if you sought something more toward a future career than just flipping burgers to feed those hungry green aliens.

No. We sat there, not dreaming of what the future will be, what the Overlord will be like when she's one, two, or three-years-old like those playing children. We sat and stared at the newness of the world, enjoying this moment of a bright and sunny day.

Blog Book Tour with Author Christine Fonseca and Contest

Hello everyone! I have the pleasure today of being a part of Author Christine Fonseca's blog book tour as she promotes her new book, "101 Success Secrets For Gifted Kids."

We are also hosting a contest. Every comment left on this post is an entry to win Christine's book as well as a $30 Amazon gift card. I'll choose the names at random (i.e. slip of paper/name/hat). You have until Tuesday May 10th to enter.

I asked Author Christine if she could give a guest post talking about the advice she received when she was a child.  So take it away, Christine!
Life in Hindsight

Today’s tour stops here at Michelle’s blog. She asked me to write a bit about the advice I received as a kid, and if or how it affected my life.

What a cool thing to think about. I don’t know about you, but I never really sat down and thought about the specific advice I received growing up. At least, not until now.
As I pondered this post and thought about my childhood, four pieces of advice really stood out – two from my early childhood, and two from you early adulthood. I thought I share all four pieces with you today, as these little tidbits have absolutely shaped my current approach to life.
  1. Plan Ahead or Go Behind:
My grandmother used to tell me this forever. I literally can not think of a time when she wasn’t saying this. To her, life was always about the Plan B – about adapting to whatever life threw at you. That, and planning for as many uncertainties as you could. Given her life, this made perfect sense.
For me, the statement meant always know where you wanted to go. Sure, things may change, but when they do you needed to make a new plan. And yes, I have lived my life this way.
  1. Do what you love, and the money will follow:
My mom raised me to believe I could do anything I wanted to. More importantly, she raised me to believe that if I followed my heart and did what I loved, everything else would take care of itself. This advice was certainly true for her – she always filled her life with things she loved. This doesn’t mean she always was employed doing only what she loved. When she left my bio-dad, she took whatever job she could so that my needs were met. But, it does mean she was willing to take some risk in the pursuit of her passions – and that part, taking a risk, is something I gleaned onto.
For me, I believe that life is far too short to waste it through quiet dissatisfaction. Like Thoreau, I never want to get to the end of my life realizing that maybe I had never actually lived. And this, this is what my mom meant by her advice, I think.
This is what I try to teach my kids.
  1. There is no meaning to anything other than the meaning we place on it:
My mother was into Zen philosophy and I was raised with lots of philosophic ideals. She believed that much of the angst we feel in life is because of how we have defined our lives – and that much of that really is irrelevant to reality. Much of it is a matter of perspective.
This was too difficult a concept for me when I was young, but in college and the early days of my marriage, it is THE advice that helped me the most. Every time I struggled with an argument with my husband, or a disappointment in my life, my mother would remind me that if I was dissatisfied, maybe I needed to look at my definitions for things. Maybe the argument wasn’t bad, as I had defined it…maybe it was something.
Perspective, she would say, changes. Maybe you need to change yours.
  1. Life is perfect. Period.
This advice came from my Step-Dad. Whenever things are overwhelming and I feel like I might drown in the weight in it all, he reminds me that life is perfect. That it is always perfect, even when I can’t see it’s perfection. He says I need to trust that things are unfolding exactly as there are supposed to. It is by far the hardest lesson I have tried to learn, but it is always some of the most helpful.
So, there you have it – advice I live by. Anything sound familiar???

School psychologist by day, YA and nonfiction author by night, Christine Fonseca believes that writing is a great way to explore humanity. Her books include EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS (2010) and 101 SUCCESS SECRETS FOR GIFTED KIDS (2011). In addition to books about giftedness, Christine writes contemporary and fantasy fiction for teens. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing around on Facebook and Twitter. Catch her daily thoughts about writing and life on her blog.

Thank you, Christine, for your guest post. Remember you leave a comment (and email addy) for your chance to win cool prizes. And you can visit Christine as well as purchase her book at the following links:
Let the contest begin!

Blog Chain: Mind Your Genre Set

Blog Chain day! I'm doing this one quick since I'm running on fumes from being up until 2am working and everyone is more interested in the World News at the moment. Margie asks this round's question:

"How do you get in the mindset of your genre? Do you research people or facts? Do you just reach into the recesses of your mind for events that would make a good story? Something else?”

My genre is suspense/thriller, so it's not like I'm going to be sitting in the park at... um... 2 in the morning waiting for a murder or something else suspenseful to happen. I read a lot of Stephen King and Poe stories, so it's easy to get within the general mindset of my genre. Watching bad horror b-movies is also another way.

I occasionally research people or facts when I'm searching for something really specific. For my novel, The Stone Man, I did a little research concerning a fort that I knew of that my mother would drive us past during my childhood to get to the local mall. Most of the story's setting takes place in a fort. And I also researched about sculptor's tools, since this is my main character's hobby/career dream.

Otherwise, as to the events of the novel, I'll lay in bed, delving into the recesses of the mind, and story events will just pop in there. Sometimes, the story's theme may come from a past childhood event. But usually it's all the brain cells' tireless efforts in trying to scare the bejeepers out of me with some wild crazy antics that makes me think I've gone mental.

That's about it. Go visit Sandra who posted something wonderful about gargoyles. And make sure to visit Eric's place tomorrow with his answer. Come back on Friday for Christine Fonseca's blog book tour to promote her nonfiction novel: 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids where she talks about childhood advice. There will be cool book swag prizes if you leave comments, and I also might throw in an Amazon Gift certificate too.

Blog Chain: Let Your Mind Surprise You

So cool! Another blog chain has arrived and CP Eric posted this round's question:

When was the last time you just sat down and started writing, with nothing but a whisper of an idea to guide you?  Did you find it easy to do or did you find yourself struggling for a more organized story

Yeah... so you're asking if I'm a panster, throwing out idea stories willy-nilly with no idea what's going on with the characters or plot. Do I just take a whisper of an idea and run with it like a streaker running past a horny frat boy house?

I feel a breeze up my knickers.

Yes, I sit down and start writing all the time with no outline to the story (or blog post as I wing this too), and just allow my fingers to type away---letting them surprise me with what's written on the screen. For all I know, my fingers may start typing about exploding mutant zombies as a scientist tries to find a cure using ground up vampire fangs so that normal humanity won't lose it's undead work force/army against the raging bloodsuckers.

Wow, now that whisper sounds interesting! Um... you'll have to excuse me. I have some writing to do. Visit Sandra and the rest of the fellow blog chainers for their answers.

I'm doing a guest blog post today!

At fellow blog chainer's Christine Forensca place. Go read and leave a comment for a chance to win cool book swag and other prizes.

Blog Chain: Hey Y'all!

"Why's I's seen you a'round these here parts b'fore now, haven'ts I? Been, wha? A blog chain ago? No matta. Come on ands pulls yourself up a chair. You go on, sit back and reeeee-lax. This here lil ol' blog is goin' to chitty-chat about thangs you might reckon find in-ter-resten. Ya, I's used a big long city-slicka werd. IN-TER-RESTEN."

Okay, Cole was the one who came up with this round's blog fun.... which is...

...any hobbies, tips, or techniques for staying positive and productive?

Hmm, well one of the hobbies I have to keep positive and productive is to just have fun with the story ideas in the old noggin. I'm never one with a lack of imagination. And a simple line jotted down at random, such as the one in the intro, could lead to all sorts of groovy possibilities. There really is nothing like just having fun with a line of dialog, even more so, if I go changing the dialect.

"As I's should say, we's have a rip-snorten fines time at it!"

I'm a big supporter for not taking the provincial route of writing. Not every bit of dialog has to be gramma-tastick! AP-styling! I play around with it, perhaps giving a character a different nature, nationality or simple slang to their words. And the one I'm good at the most is some grand ol' fashion redneck hillbilly - for which, I am one. Because you can't get a last name like "Hickman" without having a bit of "hick" in your makeup.

So that's about it. See what keeps Cole positive and productive. And make suren you's all go on and visit young whippersnapper Eric for some good ol' fashion fun.

Blog Chain: Love is a battlefield...

Blog chain day is here! While I'm downtown at my appointment today, I haven't forgotten to make this post. The talented Kat has this round's say, which is...

How do you feel about love scenes? As a reader, are you put off by the gratuitous? As a writer, do you shy away from spelling out the down-and-dirty? Or do you write until your computer lights a cigarette?

It depends what you categorize as a true love scene? What I mean to say is, what can be gratuitous to one person might not make eyelashes blink for another. We all have our different levels of perspective. While some people can cringe at the sight of blood in a scary movie, you'll have those people yawning and commenting over how they can see the tube that's pumping out the fake blood. The same thing goes for love scenes. What one person sees as a love scene might have another person see as a sex scene. It can be quite a battlefield on how much detail a writer might put in their story featuring a love scene.

Anyway, I've digressed into a philosophical moment. Sufficed to say, I have written more mentions of sex/love than actually written the textbook medical process/natural behavior/the groovy move step-by-step motions of it. The novel "Our Perfect Thorn"... two characters hinted at it before moving on to the next scene  in the morning. The novel "The Stone Man"... two characters reminisce about it before moving onto a different topic. The novel "Olive Frame"... two characters experience mild foreplay, extremely mild, before heading to the bedroom as the door closes in front of the reader.

Only one story I've written (so far) has a love/sex scene in it. And the scene was important merely to get the two characters together in the same place. For me, I enjoy subtle written scenes with an actual plot. If the love/sex act is just stuck into the story just to have THAT scene, it sticks out like a sore penis... er, I mean sore thumb. Bear in mind, however, that I'm not referring to romance or erotic fiction. My genre is mystery/suspense/thriller. So love scenes in this category must have an ulterior motive than just the characters getting their sha-bang-bang going on.

Eric mentioned this on Kat's post on who would be the first person to post a written scene. I'm not one to shy away from posting scenes from my novels, especially WIP or just off-hand story ideas still brewing in my noggin that I might one day make into a novel. So here's a snippet (this story actually came from a post I did about two years ago on my other blog), with the title, tentatively named, "The Tragedy of Paul Gruyna." Don't worry, it's not all out raunchy, or even a little bit raunchy. I tried to make the actual event taking place as subtle as possible, which is perfect for the current scene.
Monique climbed on top of Jeff’s naked body, ignoring the strong odor of spilled Bacardi rum when he had stumbled into the drunk couple by the bar exit. She slid over his sweating waist, then she slid down onto him, filling herself with his hardness. Her motions sent shivers through his body, his back arching at each pleasurable rub, his eyes squeezing tight at every moan uttered from his gasping lips.

Monique’s lips remained closed. Silent. She felt nothing from this, although her body did tremble as much as Jeff’s did. Rage. It overcame her as Monique’s eyes threw a glare at the man underneath her before her sight focused on the liquor bottle on the dresser. Less than half-full with his backwash as he had waited for Monique to pretty herself in the bathroom, the bottle felt comfortable in her grasp as she lifted it up. A crash sounded above Jeff’s moans as she broke open the glass bottle against the headboard. A gurgling scream filled the tiny apartment as she placed the jagged edge against his throat.

Monique knew exactly where to cut. She had seen the bleeding patient wheeled into the emergency room. A gunshot to the throat severing the jugular vein, was what the paramedics had explained to the rushing doctors. Her hand pressed into Jeff’s chest, feeling the lub-dub of his beating heart as it slowed. Lub-dub . . . lub . . . dub . . . the movement reminded her of the beeps that the heart-monitor machine made in the patient’s room as Monique cried when the doctor turned off the life support. Nothing more they could do for her sister who had lost too much blood caused by the gun belonging to Jeff. Nothing more Monique could do for this man who bled to death on this bed. Jeff’s death was a foregone conclusion like the passing of her sister.

In fascination, Monique watched the blood rolling down both sides of his neck. It started to cover over the black mark on his skin. Jeff’s brother had inked the tattoo at the parlor shop his family owned. His brother had created a circle with the first letter of Jeff’s name at the center. J.

No. P.

Monique leaned in close as she pushed away the sticky strands of his hair. A circle with a letter P confronted her eyes: P standing for Paul. Jeff’s brother. His identical twin.

She had killed the wrong one.
And now, I'll send you over to Cole's place who made a post about this. And make sure to visit Eric to see his take on this blog chain question.

Blog Chain: Sometimes it's NOT the Story!

Another blog chain time has arrived! I had skipped a few due to my little unexpected bundle of joy - Jaquline Ann. But I'm rearing to get back into the chain gang. This round's question comes from Sarah who asks...

What has been the most unexpected part of your writing journey up to this point? What has happened that you could never have expected? Has it been a help or a hindrance?

The most unexpected part came when I started querying that first novel and researching information regarding that first novel. And I found the same thing being said. "Put away that first novel because it will almost always not be the best you could possibly write."

And that was a bummer. We put so much time, energy and excitement into that first novel that we HOPE SO DESPERATELY it will be the lucky break to get into the publishing world. Then I started receiving the dreaded "agent form letter into oblivion" that could bring anyone's spirits down. But I kept on sending, hoping against hope just to get a nibble of a request -- partial or otherwise -- even if they decided to pass on my project. Because at least a nibble would quiet the inner demons pestering my mind with saying I'm not a good enough writer... that I should just give up... put away that writing pen/computer and do something else.

Then I received an honest note from an agent regarding my first novel. It had nothing to do with the writing. It had to do with the market trend. I can still remember his exact words: "I already have books similar to yours that aren't selling well. What I'm more interested in are..."

And that made me realize... sure, it's okay to place that first book aside --hide it under the bed, in the closet or back in the dresser drawer. Start on the next story after you learned from your mistakes, learned new techniques to try out, and truly perfected your craft with time. But never give up on that first book. Because it might not be the story holding it back, but the market. And since the market is always changing (who of us aren't getting a little tired of the whole vampire-Twilight affair), one day that story could get its time in the spotlight despite it being THAT FIRST DREADED NOVEL!!

You might become unexpectedly surprised.

Read what Cole posted before me. And stop by to see what great answer Eric will have up at his place tomorrow.

Another Jaquline Moment

Shhhh! I hijacked mommy's blog to post something about her.

Heh... heh... I uploaded it to mommy's Facebook page already. I wasn't really sleeping when she did the video. I was holding in the laughter to mommy's "mommy voice." I think she sounds like a rabid squirrel huffing helium...

"Overlord" Jaquline


Yes, I'm back briefly to make a post. I was kidnapped by tiny munchkin people who insisted I feed them a white liquid substance and undergo laborious tasks of removing a soiled cottony substance encased in gauze, plastic, and with yellow straps.

It has been absolute bliss!

Yes, I know I said I was kidnapped. And I was. My life changed completely. It all started on February 2nd. Groundhog's Day.

I started feeling sick. Major cramping along my abdomen. The cramping lasted all morning, into the afternoon, and started into the evening hours. It was into the 6 o'clock news when I couldn't take the pain anymore and asked a friend to call an ambulance. He knew I wasn't feeling well, and he wasn't feeling well himself with a cold. So we had both just tried to deal with our own ailments during the day while still keeping each other company.

But our call was intercepted.

It looked like an ambulance. And I stepped inside the screeching, red light flashing vehicle. And the paramedics seemed like regular paramedics although I've never had the pleasure of needing them before. I thought we were headed to the hospital. But, if you have ever ridden in an ambulance before, you aren't ever facing forward to see where you are going, and there are no windows along the sides to stare out at the streaking scenery.

We pulled up to the building of red brick. The "paramedics" unloaded the stretcher with me fastened securely. And that's when I knew I was abducted.

Seriously, I was abducted. You can shake your head, but I will carry the evidence with me my entire life. I even have the leftover wrist bracelets. My mistress is kind enough to allow me to not have to wear them, so long as I swore total allegiance to her everyday whims and desires for my entire life.

As it were, how could I say no? Her mere face has the mystic powers of a sorceress. She is like Medusa and the snakes. If you look at her, you turn to stone. Well, when I look at her, my heart turns to butter and I must bend my will to accommodate her. She chose me as her own, stamping her number/letter code on the bracelet to identify me. Then with a mighty nod of her flopping head, she indicated that I should take her back to my home, making room for her things for her extended stay.

I was kidnapped. I am still under my kidnapper's heart bindings. But I was able, after she had fallen asleep, to snap a photo of her.

This "kid" sure does love to "nap!" Seriously, this "napper" doesn't "kid" around when she wants to have her way. When she wants a "nap," this kid will sleep everywhere, even pinning me down on the bed so she can "nap" on my chest. This "kidnapper" naps away, and who am I "kidding," I enjoy watching her "nap." But this "kid" can sometimes make it hard for me to "nap." But I cope wholeheartedly. I even welcome it on some days.

Yes, this is my kidnapper. Her name is Jaquline Ann. Born on February 2nd, 2011. My nine day old daughter.

I'm still glad she let me remove the hospital... er... kidnapper wrist bracelets.

Photos the property of Jaquline Ann. This blog now the property of Jaquline Ann. The woman named Michelle Hickman is also now my property, as in I, Jaquline Ann. All correspondence shall be directed to me, Jaquline Ann. Do not send prison files, skeleton keys, crowbars, explosives or any other means of escape to Michelle. Her resistance is futile! And you will also come under my will... someday... MWAHAHAHAHA! Sincerely, Jaquline Ann.